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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  January 16, 2014 6:00pm-8:01pm EST

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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber who wish to vote or to change a vote? if not, on this vote, the yeas are 72, the nays 26. and the motion to concur in the house amendment to the senate amendment to h.r. 3547 is agreed to. under the previous order, the clerk will report --
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ms. mikulski: i move to reconsider. i move to lay on the table. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the clerk will report h. con. res. 74. under the previous order, the concurrent -- the clerk: h. con. res. 74, concurrent resolution providing for a correction in the enrollment of h.r. 3547. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the concurrent resolution is agreed to and the motion to reconsider considered made and laid upon the table. mr. grassley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa is recognized.
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mr. grassley: if i'm not bothering anybody else, i'd like to start. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. all senators please take conversations off the floor. the senator is entitled to be heard. mr. grassley: today i would like to continue the discussion about the destruction of the senate as a deliberative body and continue to echo the call of the distinguished minority leader for a return to a functional senate. i've spoken on this issue before, and i think it's best to go back to the constitution and the people that write the constitution for an understanding of what was intended when the senate was set up. so i don't intend to dwell not to use of the so-called nuclear option related to the filibuster. the presiding officer: will the
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senator suspend. will the senate please come to order. i would ask senators to please take their conversations off the floor. the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: the reason i'm not going to spend my time on the nuclear option like i did in previous speeches, the majority leader's claim that the senate's dysfunction is related to some unprecedented use of filibusters, i think, has been thoroughly debunked. this claim is directly refuted by the very source that he has pointed to, the congressional research service, and more importantly, has been debunked by fact checkers in important media in america. yet as we know, the senate is dysfunctional, beyond a doubt. to get to the bottom of how and more importantly, why the
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senate is not functioning, we must have a clear understanding of just how the senate is supposed to function. and as i just said, the constitution, and for an understanding of what the constitution means, there's no better source for this than going back to the federalist papers. i have referenced the federalist papers before on this subject, but it's worth the detail about what the framers of the constitution had in mind when this senate was created. federalist paper 62, which is usually attributed to the father of the constitution, james madison, begins to lay out the rationale for how the senate is to operate. he mentioned that the number of members and the length of terms are different between the house and senate, and then he said
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this and i'm going to quote, before before i quote i hope you understand when something was written in 1787 and 1788 they use a little different form of english than what we use but it's pretty clear what they intended to say about explaining the difference between the house and senate. so sheer begins my quote of james madison. "in order to form an accurate judgment on both of these points, it will be proper to inquire into the purposes which are to be answered by a senate, and in order to ascertain these it will be necessary to review the inconveniences which a republic must suffer from the want of such an institution." end of that quote but i'll have other quotes from the federalist papers. now, in this specific quote, in
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other words, madison is going to tell us the purpose of the senate, starting with the problems of a republic would face without a senate and how the senate is designed to correct those problems. as we hear from madison about how our legislative process is supposed to work, i would encourage my colleagues to think about major legislation that has been considered in the senate in recent years. in fact, arguably the most major bill that has passed in recent years, president obama's health care law, serves as one example. when that law was considered, one party held all political branches of government -- the presidency, the house of representatives, and even had a supermajority in the united states senate. that means that they could run
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the senate like the house without the need to compromise with any in the minority. and at that particular time, my party was then and still is in the minority. we're now dealing with daily problems caused by the way the health care law was written, which is something to keep in mind as madison describes in these coming quotes the problems the senate was designed to prevent. here's the first problem that madison discusses. it's a fairly long quote from the federalist, and he makes -- first he says "first -- i better start the quote over again. "first, it is a misfortunate incident to a republican government, though in less degree than other governments, that those who administer it may forget their obligations to
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their constituents and prove unfaithful to their important trust. in this point of view, a senate as a second branch of legislative assembly, distinct from and dividing the power with a first, must be in all cases a salutory check on government. it doubles the security to the people by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of ewe surpaition or -- ursurpation or perfidy where the corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient. this is a caution founded on such clear principles and now so well understood in the united states that it would be more than superfluous to enlarge on
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it." then madison goes on, "i will barely remark as the possibility of sinner the combinations will be in blow portion to the dissimilarity in the genius of the two bodies, it must be politic to distinguish them from each other by every circumstance which will consist with a due harmony in all proper measures and with the genuine principles of republican government" -- end quote. now, i see it this way. in other words, madison saying having a second chamber of congress designed to operate differently from the house makes it less likely that a partisan agenda that doesn't reflect the views of the americans will pass. that is not a function the senate currently performs as it
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has been run on a purely partisan terms since 2007. for example, you'll recall that the president's health care proposal did not enjoy widespread public support. yet it passed the senate along strictly partisan lines with little input sought or accepted from the minority party. in fact, before a final bill could be passed, reconciling the house and senate bills, a special election was held in a liberal state of massachusetts resulting in an election of an opponent of the health care reform proposal. instead of moderating the proposal based upon public will, and doing it maybe just a little bit so it could attract even one republican vote, the house passed a draft senate bill then, used a budget tool called reconciliation to ram another bill through the senate with a
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simple majority to change items in the first bill. now, that's not how madison intended a bicameral congress to work. the next point that madison makes -- quote -- "secondly the necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and person -- pernicious resolutions. examples on this subject might be cited without number and proceedings within the united states and as well as from the history of other nations, but a proposition that will not be contradicted need not be proved. all that need be remarked is
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that a body which is to correct this infirmity ought to itself to be free from and consequently ought to be less numerous. it ought, moreover, to possess great firmness and consequently ought to hold its authority by a tenure of considerable duration" -- end of quote. now, that describes what he thought the senate should be, what the senate is, but my point is the senate isn't functioning that way. in other words, if you have just one legislative chamber with a large number of members, it is likely to make laws hastily based on a partisan agenda without thinking through all the long-term consequences. a hastily passed partisan agenda that ignores the long-term consequences, now doesn't that
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remind you of the health care law? remember how then speaker pelosi said the house had to pass a bill to find out what was in it. they were in such a rush they couldn't be bothered to read it. the senate is intended, as madison just said, as i quoted, to be smaller, to be more deliberate, and to be less partisan. imagine if the senate had been allowed to operate in a deliberative fashion and craft a truly bipartisan health care proposal, if that had happened, we certainly could have come up with something more workable than the current law. madison continues his explanation of the rationale for the senate -- quote -- "thirdly, another defect to be supplied by the senate lies in a want of due acquaintance with the objects and principles of
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legislation. it is not possible that an assembly of men called for the most part from pursuits of a private nature, continued in appointment for a short time, and led by no permanent motive to devote the intervals of public occupation to a study of the laws, the affairs and the comprehensive interests of their country should, if left wholly to themselves, escape a variety of important errors in the exercise of their legislative trust. it may be affirmed on the best grounds that no small share of the present embarrassments of america is to be charged on the blunders of our government, and that these have proceeded from the heads, rather than the hearts, of most of the authors of them. what, indeed, are all the
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repealing, explaining, and amending laws which fill and disgrace our voluminous codes but so many monuments of deficient wisdom, impeachments exhibited by such succeeding -- by seech succeeding against preceding session, so many admonitions his, to the people from an age which may be expected from a well-constituted senate. a good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the objects of government, which is the happiness of the people, and secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be attained. some governments are deficient in both these qualities. most governments are deficient in the first. i scruple not to assert that in
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american governments too little attention has been paid to the last. the federal constitution avoids this error and what merits particular notice, it provides for the last in a mode which increases the security of the first end of that long quote from the federalist papers. now, that's a long quote, but madison is essentially saying that the house is to be composed of a representative slice of american citizens, while the senate is supposed to be composed of individuals that have more experience and approach public policy more thoughtfully. i'm sure that many people might question whether individuals in the house or even in this senate match those descriptions today that madison lays out, but it
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is true that the rules of the house allow for new ideas to be quickly translated into legislation, but by contrast, the process in the senate has historically been slower and more deliberative to refine those ideas into law that can stand the test of time. now, note that madison complains about all the -- quote -- "repealing, explaining and amending laws" that have had to be passed by the unio union unil legislatures at that time, in the early days of our republic. our early experience of passing bills quickly without thinking things through led to the understandings that we should take our time and get it right in the first place. now, getting back to madison and
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those quotes i just gave you, that's what the senate is supposed to do. so the failure to allow the senate to take the time to examine and take time to revise legislation is -- is quite obvious, results in bad laws that don't work. we now have a situation with the health care law where the president claims the authority to unilaterally suspend or reinterpret parts of the law that are clearly unworkable. that is very similar to the embarrassing situation madison refers to of a constant stream of -- quote -- "repealing, explaining, and amending laws," except the president is doing all of the repealing, all the explaining, and all the amending unilaterally. our constitutional system is not designed to pass a lot of
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legislation quickly and that can be frustrating, particularly to any majority party anxious to enact its agenda. still, our deliberative process is a design and not a flaw. based on the experience, the framers of our constitution determined that it was better to get it right the first time than to subject the american people to the upheavals of laws that need to be constantly amended or repealed. the house was designed to act quickly. the senate was designed to be a deliberate body implying a slower approach to legislating. the fundamental problem is that the current majority leader is trying to run the senate like the house and the senate was not designed to be operated in that
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way. sure, when the majority then and now the majority, the same majority, when they had 60 votes, it was possible to ram legislation through the senate without any deliberation. but that's no longer the reality. when the majority leader brings a bill to the floor, routinely blocking amendments and then rapidly moves to end consideration of the bill. that means that the senate is presented with a measure as a fait accompli and has to take it or, the opposite, leave it. in other words, the majority leadership wants their agenda approved, no questions asked, or nothing at all. the fact is, if the majority leader just allowed the senate to deliberate, we could get a lot more done than we have been doing. sure, we might not get as many laws passed as some people might
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like. the full senate, through its deliberation, may after -- may alter legislation somewhat from how the majority leadership would prefer. still, we would be able to accomplish some important legislation. but, no, that's not acceptable, we're told. and a week ago today there was a strong debate on that very issue. for all the talk about getting things done, the majority leadership has demonstrated repeatedly with cloture motion after cloture motion that it would rather grind this body to a halt than allow the slightest alteration of their agenda. the latest message from the majority leadership is that they will respect the rights of senators to offer an amendment only if they have certain assurances about the final outcome. the senior senator from new york implied that's the way it used to be done.
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well, i want to assure that senator that in the 33 years i've served here, it's never been done that way. i've managed a lot of bills over the years, and if i had tried to impose that requirement, i would have been laughed at, to say the least. since when did duly elected senators have to negotiate for the right to represent their constituents? an open amendment process should be the default situation, not something that is granted at the sufferance of the majority party leadership. we must get back, then, to what we call around here regular order. i would say do things the way madison intended it. that means that an open amendment process without preconditions or spermconditionl limitations on what -- special limitations on what amendments can be allowed. bills shouldn't be voted on
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until amendments have been processed. that was the standard practice when we get things done, we accomplished things. again, madison describes a senate that is to represent all americans, not just one party. it was designed to be more thoughtful and deliberative and, whether we like it or not, slower than the house of representatives. the senate's purpose is to make sure that congress passes fewer but better laws. we saw what happened when the senate was controlled entirely by one party. while the voices of the minority party and the citizens they represented were ignored. we got a deeply flawed health care law and the american people are paying the price. yet the majority leader insists on running the senate like he still has 60 votes and doesn't have to compromise and even refuses to compromise. that's not how the authors of our constitution intended the senate to work and, of course,
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it isn't working. the senate is facing a crisis and the only way to solve it is to restore the senate as a deliberative body envisioned by the authors of the constitution and express in an -- expressed in an explanatory way in "the federalist papers." i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from california is recognized. mrs. boxer: mr. president, i appreciate the fact that senator grassley has given us his view of how the senate ought to work and all i'm saying is when he says "more deliberative" and knowing how many filibusters have been supported on that side, that's what it says to me. and as someone who didn't want to change the filibuster rules because i thought maybe we could come to some agreement and we wouldn't be facing historic
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numbers of filibusters, let me just say, what the majority leader did was the right thing. it was the right thing. i've been in washington a long time. i came here in 1983 over to the house. the senate worked well. it isn't working well and what the majority leader said is, how can you have a president, be he or she republican or democratic, how can we have that president function without a team in place, a team, their team? one person can't run a country. you need a team. one senator can't run our offices. we need a team. my god, mr. president, what if we were told that we couldn't put our team together unless we had a vote but it wasn't a majority vote, it had to be a super majority? we'd never get anything done.
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we'd -- we'd be running in circles. it would be very difficult. so my friends sounds to me like he wants to go back to the bad ole days where we would have all of these nominees objected to, stalled. my god, it took -- i'm trying to think of how many days it took to get the administrator of the environmental protection agency up. now, my view, having been here and love this institution and love my work and enjoy my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, the senate's changed because the parties have moved so far apart. let's just call it what it is. and in my eyes, republicans have moved so far to the right that unlike years ago when i came, it is very difficult to get anything done legislatively. that's why today is one of those rare bright moments and my hat is off to senator mikulski, senator shelby and their house
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counterparts. we actually got something done. half of the republicans joined all the democrats to pass an omnibus appropriations bill. this is a good thing for ameri america. no side got everything they wanted. we -- we know that. but you know what the american people got? they got compromise. they got certainty. they got stability. in the near future, we're not going to have shutdowns and shouting matches and, you know, debates through the night on whether we should have a government or not. so we need more legislating like this and that's why i so look forward to getting the water resources development act done. this is so important to so many of our states. we need to do flood control. we need to do adaptation. we need to make sure there's
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recreation on our wetlands and so on. we need dredging at our ports. those are the economic engines of our nation. so we have a bill we passed. over in the house they have a bill. we're now in the middle of trying to conference the differences. and i'm very hopeful we're going to get it done. senator vitter and i are working together to get it done. it's a little slower than we would like in terms of progress but i'm convinced we're going to have a bill before this body. so we need to take care of the people's business, and guess what? the president of the united states has a right to get his team in place. it's just as simple as it is. and the people know it. i go home, people say, hooray, thank god you guys are doing something, you're getting people confirmed. then we have the courts. we have courts that are -- the judgeships are vacant.
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justice delayed is justice denied. we need those judges in their places. and the senator from iowa i remember made a big, eloquent speech about how we wanted to -- quote, unquote -- "pack the courts." well, anyone who knows anything about history knows "pack the courts" mean you want to add more judges and then put your people in. it doesn't mean filling vacancies. i think he got off that. but that was something to listen to. we need to take care of the people's business and not play politics depending on who's in the white house. unemployment insurance was a perfect example of this. under george w. bush, between the -- putting in place unemployment insurance and extending it, we did it five times, no offsets. no offsets. now all of a sudden the republicans -- people are struggling.
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i am stunned that we couldn't come together and extend unemployment insurance for the 1.5 million people right now and the 250,000 californians included in that 1.5 million who have run out of hope. and the republicans said, pay for it, even though the deficit's been cut in half. they've suddenly noticed the deficit. under george bush, it was $1.4 trillion. they put two wars on the credit card, they put huge tax cuts for millionaires on the credit card. oh, no problem. now they discover the deficit even though it's been cut in half by this president. oh, we have to pay for it. okay, we said, we'll pay for it. we'll pay for it. and we gave them an offset that we took out of paul ryan's budget. wasn't good enough for them. then they said we want amendments, we've got to have
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amendments. just give us some amendments and we'll give you unemployment insurance for these struggling people. oh, harry reid, 20 amendments, okay? five a side and five side-by-sides. 20 amendments. oh, no, that wasn't good enough. it's childish. people are struggling. they're deciding whether they can put heat on in their house. they're wondering whether they can pay the rent. whether they're going to lose their homes. whether they're going to have to beg other family members for help. this is outrageous, outrageous. income unequality is outrageous. -- income inequality is outrageous. do you know, mr. president, that 400 families -- 400 families are worth more in wealth than 150 million americans? let me say that again. 400 families in america are
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worth more than half the united states of america. and when there were tax cuts to those people, i never heard one word from one republican about a pay-for. the deficit soared. they all voted to go to war. no prob -- no problem. but we want to help these families who are desperate. middle-class families, people who paid into workers unemployment insurance fund. people who are looking for work because they can't get that extended unemployment unless they prove it. no. nobody's hope over there. and i appreciate some of my colleagues made a speech about poverty. great. how about doing something about
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it? how about doing something about it, not speechifying. where are they in raising the minimum wage? i don't know. maybe they'll come with us. i don't see it. i really don't see it. i hope so. i pray so. i do. so far i don't see. now in the last presidential election of 2010, the republican leader said his top priority was defeating president obama. that's what the republican leader said. not working for the people of this country. not passing legislation to make their life better. not moving forward and making sure the air we breathe is clean, the water we drink is safe. not making sure our kids have a good education and workers get job training. no. top priority, defeating president obama. well, president obama won. so why don't you wake up and smell the roses and understand
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we need to work together. you've got to accept reality. look, i've had my candidates in the past win and lose. i've been here through tough elections. we lost the senate and we won the senate. we lost the house, we won the house. we won the presidency, we lost it. and guess what? i had to understand that when it comes to legislating, we put that aside. we fight hard during an election. but once it's over, you don't carry that over. you work together. but too many on the other side are politically motivated. all they want to do is hurt our president day in and day out. criticizing him endlessly. not working with him. he's offered that olive branch
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over and over again, whether it's on economic recovery, jobs, health care, environment, income inequality, even foreign policy; day after day after day. now here's the thing that you never hear from the other side, so i'm going to talk about it tonight. when president obama took office, the economy was losing over 700,000 jobs a month. now we've added eight million private-sector jobs in the past 45 months. how does that compare to george w. bush? after eight years in office, president bush's record was that we lost 665 private-sector jobs. so far we've added eight million private-sector jobs in the past 45 months. when president obama took office, mr. president, we remember those days. frightening days. stock markets collapsing. now the stock market's gone up how many points?
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how many? gone up 10,000 points. that's unbelievable. g.d.p., gross domestic product, was contracting at a rate of 8.3% in the fourth quarter of 2008 as we said goodbye to george w. bush. now we just learned that the g.d.p. grew by 4.1% in the third quarter. is this president satisfied? are we? no. but have we turned it around? yes. does the president ever get one ounce of credit for any of this? no. no. how about looking at our deficit. let's look at that, something the republicans claim is a very central part of them. this is it. $1.4 trillion deficit when
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george bush left office. down now to 680, going down to 560, falling at the fastest rate in many, many year. just like health care costs are not rising the way they used to. do you think we'd hear one word about it on the other side? no. no. even on foreign policy. even on foreign policy. politics used to stop at the water's edge. senator grassley has an historic perspective. i do too. politics used to stop at the water's edge when it came to foreign policy. no more. no more. but you would never know that the deficit's been cut in half and you would never know that eight million private-sector jobs have been created if you listen to my friends on the other side, because they can't give any credit to president obama. but history will.
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history will. now the last thing i'm going to talk about is health care. i listened to my colleague, senator cruz. go after this president and the democrats on health care. so let's look at a few things. first fact, even though we had a horrible rollout of the health care site, not in california but the federal site, healthcare.gov, and a couple states had a horrible rollout, put that aside, this is what we know now there's more now but i didn't have a chance to make a new chart. we're getting to ten million americans. but over nine million americans have new secure health insurance. three million young adults who have stayed on their parents' insurance policy, 3.9 million
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who were on this expanded medicaid and 2.1 million exchange plans, the private plans. we'll show you this another way on the private plans. 2.1 million. and now we think it's more, do we not? it's a little bit more. here we are. very, very, very tough rollout. nothing worked. now it's working and it's spiking. it's only going to get better. you wouldn't know that because senator cruz keeps saying over and over again, what have the people, the democrats in the senate done to protect the people from obamacare? well, i've got to protect the people from him, because if he had his way, he'd repeal obamacare. and i ask you, let's go back to the nine million, what's going to happen to those young people if cruz has his way, senator cruz has his way and we repeal
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obamacare? what happens to the three million young adults? they're back on their own. they have no insurance. they're back at the emergency room. what happens to those on medicaid and expanded medicaid? forget it. and what happens to the exchanges? they'd be gone. so while senator cruz says we've done nothing to protect the people, the opposite is true. we stand in support of the people. the people's right to get affordable health care. do we have the perfect answer on every front? no. do we have to make corrections? of course. and we had a meeting with the president yesterday. he is reaching out his hand to the republicans and democrats. if we can fix this in any way and make it work better, we will. let's look at some of our other charts. as far as what our republican
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colleagues want to do when they say repeal obamacare, i'm telling you 400,000 californians have enrolled and now it's 500,000, so this is wrong. it's 500,000 californians have enrolled in exchange plan through coveredca.com. now this is working in my state, i'll tell you. it is working. and i'm not going to allow senator cruz to take the benefits away from my people who are writing me letters, and i have some of them here. i'm going to read a little bit of those stories. john i want to pronounce it right. nunmacher is a 43-year-old freelance graphic artist from san jose. the last time he had health insurance was 15 years ago when
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his employer paid for coverage. but as of january 1, john is covered by a plan he can finally afford. this is what he told the san jose mercury news -- quote -- "i hoped this day pwo -- would come. i worried it wouldn't and i'm very glad finally has. i'll be going five minutes. so he is happy. and i'm not going to let senator cruz take away his insurance. let's be clear. let's be clear. he waited for a long time. i'm not going back. we can't go back to those days when there was no insurance for our young people. we can't go back to the days when being a woman was a preexisting condition, when you got charged double that of a man. we can't go back to the days when kids were thrown off their parents' policies. we just can't go back. amy touragrossa has been without
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insurance since july. she has congenital heart disease and high blood pressure. she no longer runs because she says if i twist an ankle or get hit by a car treatment is expensive. she signed up for a plan costing $310 a month. she made sure her cardiologist is in the network and plans to sign up for a checkup early next year. amy, i'm not going to let anybody take this away from you. michelle stung, 57, a self-employed product designer. for many years she could not afford any insurance at all because of a false positive, false positive test for lupus which incorrectly flagged her as having a preexisting condition. for the past 15 years she could only afford catastrophic insurance. now thanks to a tax credit she will pay $55 a month with no
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deductible, a $3 co-pay. here's what she said. it just blows my mind that i can get health insurance at this price. i can finally afford checkups, tests and age-related visits. michelle, i'm not going to let anyone take your insurance away from you. you deserve it. elaine post, 64, from west hills, california. she told cnn -- quote -- "when i first got laid off, i tried to get private insurance through the big companies. they all rejected me, wanted to charge me really high premiums for not getting their insurance. now elaine has coverage through her bronze plan through covered california that costs $461 a month. elaine, you're going to keep your insurance and we're going to protect you. so there are a number of these stories. i'd ask unanimous consent to put them in the record at this time. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: and i just want to say when you listen to the naysayers and the bad news bears
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and everyone who comes here and starts criticizing, get to the bottom of it. look at this nine million number headed toward ten million and understand what's happening in our nation. people are getting health coverage. and here's the deal. the way we did it, obamacare, is just like it was in massachusetts when governor romney put it through. that's where the ideas came from. we didn't do another plan. we did that type of plan. and it's working in massachusetts, where i think, is it 95% of the people are covered. and i'll close with a couple of other protections that are in effect so that you can see why when ted cruz and my colleagues come to the floor, my republican friends, and want to repeal obamacare, i'm saying no way. if you want to work with us to make it better, absolutely.
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but i'm not going to let my constituents lose their insurance. you want to tell your constituents they can lose their insurance, that's your business. don't mess with california. look, already in effect, three million young adults insured through their parents plan. 71 million americans getting free preventive care such as checkups, birth control and immunizations. you want to take that away from texas, be my guest. you're not going to do it because we're not going to let you do it. health reforms in effect, 17 million kids with preexisting conditions like asthma and diabetes cannot be denied coverage. insurers cannot cancel your health insurance because you get sick. no lifetime limits on coverage. no annual limits on coverage. you can't deny coverage or charge more for preexisting
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conditions. you can't charge women more than men. and this is the annual limits i just talked about. you can't put annual limits on a plan. women, women. two-thirds of women are on the minimum wage. okay? two-thirds of women are on the minimum wage. so if you don't support raising the minimum wage, you're taking on the women, and that's a fact. and they are not students. they're not youngsters. look, women now can get contraception so they can decide that they will plan their families. well-women visits, s.t.d. screening, breast feeding support, domestic violence screening, gestational diabetes screening, h.i.v. screening, h.p.v. testing. this is all happening because of obamacare. so i want to say to anyone within the sound of my voice, if
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i haven't put you to sleep, this is what i want to say. when anyone gets on the floor and starts complaining about obamacare and wanting to repeal it, you just say to them why do you want to hurt the people of this country who have waited so long to get health insurance, who have suffered so much, who have gone bankrupt because somebody had the misfortune of getting cancer? why do you want to go back to those days? that's not good for america. just because it was president obama who signed the bill. the affordable care act is now called obamacare. what a wonderful thing for this president. but i got to tell you, anyone who stands up and says they want to take away these benefits are hurting the american people, and i'm going to collect these stories, i'm going to come to the floor and read them. this is about real people
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getting secure insurance for the first time in their lives, and it's affordable, and no one is going to turn back the clock. you can't. you can't go back to those days. so, mr. president, we have to deal with making this health care bill work the best it can. we have to work on income inequality. we have to come back and still work for unemployment insurance extension for the 1.5 million americans who desperately need help. we have to work on making sure that there is a bright future for our families. i thank you very much, and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida is recognized. mr. rubio: thank you, mr. president. hi a few comments on another issue today that i'm going to get to in a moment, but i just wanted to take this opportunity,
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it's a special anniversary in florida that i wanted to commemorate, and it's that of the naval air station in pensacola, which is now celebrating its centennial anniversary. a.n.s. pensacola as it's more commonly known is a florida institution. it's really the cradle of naval aviation. the first navy airplane flight from pensacola pack place on november 2, 1914. many have gone on to bravely serve with honor in the american wars and they have also delighted crowds across the country as part of the blue angels. they have make their mark on the floor to pan -- to the florida panhandle in our nation's defense. our colleague john mccain trained there. of course went on to serve not just our country heroically and admirably, but also served us here in the united states senate. others that have passed through there including many nasa astronauts, alan shepard, neil
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armstrong, among others began their aviation careers at pensacola and eventually wept on to become astronauts and made an impact on world history that's immeasurable. n.s.a. pensacola is also the final resting place of thousands of warriors at the national cemetery, a place that truly humbles visitors and reminds us to be thankful that america has been blessed with so many courageous patriots throughout our history. today there are 17,000 service men and women who continue their service to north america at n.s. pensacola and there are several thousand civilians who support the base's operations. they are part after real community where parents are raising their kids and where many veterans who once served there have decided to make it their permanent homes. we're proud of this in the florida panhandle and it makes our state a better place. as the centennial celebrations get under way this weekend, i wanted to join our state and our entire nation in celebrating 100 years of military excellence at n.s.a. pensacola. we truly give thanks to all the
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brave men and women who have made this military installation a crown jowl of our national -- jewel of our national defense and contributed to america's exceptional history. i wanted to take a moment before we left here on recess to bring that point up. i also wanted to take a moment to talk about an emerging problem with the health care law that has only begun to filter out in the news cycle but i think bears watching in the days and weeks to come. as we all know, a key part of the health care law is the exchanges which are theoretically supposed to be competitive private participates where individuals can go online, either through their state exchange or the federal exchange and buy health insurance at a competitive price, and you can choose between these different plants. that's the idea behind a health exchange. and in and of itself, the idea of an exchange is not a bad one, appropriately administered and it doesn't come accompanied with all the other thing the health care law came accompanied with.
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but there is a problem with the way the exchanges are now designed that have not yet received the attention they deserve, but i promise you you're going to be hearing a lot about it in the days to come. the technical term for it is risk corridors. what it basically means is that companies who participate in an exchange or a marketplace in insurance are told that there is a reinsurance plan in place that will protect them in case of loss or catastrophic loss. so, for example, let's say you are an insurance provider and you go into a marketplace and then it turns out that the demographics of the groups that signed up for your plans didn't turn out the right way or there was an enormous spike in health care costs, whatever it may be, and you suffered dramatic losses, a risk corridor is in place to protect you from that. the reason why is, number one, it's a safety net, per se, for the industry on a short-term basis, and the reason why that's important is because you want patients' bills to be paid and you don't want people to go unable to see their bills paid and providers to be left out. the problem is that applying
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that to the health care exchange is going to prove extraordinarily problematic. because what's happened over the last few weeks, as we predicted would happen, is that not enough young people are signing up for the exchange. in order for health insurance to work, you have to have enough younger and healthier people on it. if you have a health insurance plan that's largely composed of people that are guaranteed to get sick, economically it doesn't work, and there is no dispute about that. in fact, by the administration's own statistics, they say that at least 38% of the enrollees in the exchanges had to be under the age of 34 in order for the exchanges to work in an actuarially sound way. so based on the assumption that that's what was going to happen, insurance companies bid on these exchanges and offered a product and have begun to sign people up. the problem is that so far that
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figure is not being met. the numbers are just starting to come in, we don't know the full picture yet, but the trends are troubling. number one, not enough people are signing up. the target goal is a total of about seven million people or more by a deadline that has now been extended to march 31, the number is less than 2.2 million. now there are still eight weeks left or so so we'll see what happens, but the trends are not positive. here's an even more troubling trend. only 30% of national enrollees are from that demographic that i described to you. only 30% are under the age of 34. in florida, it's only 25%. here's the fundamental problem that we have right now with the exchanges. beyond all the other ones that we have already discussed ad nauseam. not enough people are signing up and not enough people under the age of 34 are signing up. the result is that the way this is trending now, the exchanges are becoming more like a
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high-risk pool and less like a true competitive exchange. and here's why that's problematic. companies lose money as they are going to, if you look at these figures, and as the companies themselves anticipate. in fact, in some of the early disclosures, these companies are making, you're starting to see the forecast of losses. when these companies -- these trends continue, lose money because not enough people under the age of 34 signed up for them and not enough people signed up, under the law, under obamacare, they will be entitled to a payout from the high-risk pool. this is a program that's in place for the first three years of these exchanges. what that means is a taxpayer-funded bailout of obamacare. that means the taxpayers of the united states, your money, is going to go from your pocket into the pocket of these private companies. now, what the private companies will tell you is look, we bid on
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this product when you told us the rules were going to be this, but since then, you have changed those rules even more. and so what was already bad has gotten worse. and there is not enough awareness about this, but we're going to be hearing about it in the weeks to come. as we get closer to the reality that billions of dollars in taxpayer money is going to be used to bail out these exchanges, there is going to be growing outrage around the country and people are going to want answers, and i hope my colleagues are starting to think about what we need to do. that's why i filed the bill in november. it's called the obamacare taxpayer bailout prevention act, and what it would do is it would eliminate this provision that allows for the tax-funded bailouts of these exchanges. and this problem, as we get closer to it, the numbers are as bad or worse than we anticipated.
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so in the months to come, here is what you can expect to see. first, can you expect to see that companies are now going to say well, we need our money. under the law, we were promised this high-risk -- this bailout. we signed up for it under that assumption. now we need taxpayer money. and i preticket the -- predict the second thing you're going to see is going into next year, as companies are going to begin their filings for next year, some companies are going to decide we're not participating in obamacare exchanges next year at all, which means there is going to be less choices and less competition and therefore higher premiums. other companies are going to say we'll participate but only at these premiums, and they're going to be significantly higher than the ones we've seen this year, meaning they will be even less affordable, meaning even less people under the age of 34 will sign up, meaning even more money will have to go from the taxpayer to bill out the exchange.
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now, we're still in mid january and these numbers could change, but nobody realistically expects them to. in fact, i have yet to hear from anyone knowledgeable about this subject who has said to me oh, don't worry, in the next eight weeks, another five million or six million people will sign up and we'll get to over 35% of national enrollees, we'll get to over 38% of the people signing up being in the demographic of 35 or -- 34 or under. so it's only mid january, but i come to the floor today to sound the alarm that this is coming so that people across this country know that we are on the verge, we are weeks and months away from transferring potentially billions of dollars from taxpayers to private companies to bail out these exchanges. and i promise you this will not be the last time we hear about this. i encourage my colleagues as they go home on this recess and talk to people, get informed about this subject because you're going to be hearing a lot
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about it in the weeks and months to come. this is a very serious threat to the law itself, by the way. this is unsustainable. at a time when we have a $17 trillion debt, when so many americans are struggling to find employment that pays them enough to live off, when so many americans have seen the jobs they once had disappear and cannot find a job to replace it, when so many americans are struggling with the growing cost of living and every aspect -- in every aspect of their lives, childcare, student loans, utility bills, you name it. to be told that at a time when all of these challenges are happening and a personal economy is hurting so many people, that billions of dollars of taxpayer money is going to bail out this law, there is going to be collective outrage across the political spectrum in this country, and rightfully so. and here is the last point i would make, and then i'll close. if this law has to be bailed
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out, it's one more reason why it doesn't work. these exchanges were supposed to be private competitive marketplaces where companies could actuarially and soundly price a product and sell it at an affordable rate. that is not where they are headed. we are headed towards a day soon, as early as next year -- and you will see the filings this year -- when these companies are going to decide either not to participate or to participate but only they can charge substantially higher premiums with higher co-payments and higher deductibles. and on top of it, the only way they'll participate is if they are promised this bailout. we are going to hear a lot about this in the weeks to come, and i encourage my colleagues, irrespective of how you feel about this law, i cannot imagine any of us believing that we are at a time in our nation's history, given the challenges we face now, where we should be bailing out this plan with
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taxpayer money being transferred to private companies to keep them in business. but that's where we're headed. we better be able to do something about it soon because people are not going to stand for it. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont is recognized. mr. sanders: mr. president, as chairman of the senate veterans committee i want to take a moment to thank all the members of that committee for their hard work over the last year. at a time when there is obviously an enormous amount of divisiveness and partisanship here in the senate i am happy to report that by and large, there has been a great deal of bipartisan effort being made in the veterans committee and very
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productive work as well. mr. president, today as the chairman of the committee i have introduced the most comprehensive piece of veterans' legislation that we have seen in a very, very long time. the comprehensive veterans' health and benefits and military retiree pay restoration act of 2014 delivers on the promises that we have made to our service members and i believe will have the support of members of the senate and of the house because it's addresses virtually every single issue that the veterans community has been send about. what we -- concerned about. what we have done is taken two omnibus bills and wrapped it into this legislation. in addition we have taken other pieces of legislation passed by the committee and we have added
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to that based on some recent developments. this legislation is the product of a year of bipartisan work, and includes provisions important to almost every single veteran service organization and dozens of members of the senate, republican, democrat, and independent, many of which were reported out of the veterans committee with strong bipartisan support. mr. president, this legislation completely eliminates the cuts that were made to the military retiree cost of living adjustments. i know that there was great concern here in the senate from democrats and republicans about that cut, as well as in the house of representatives and i am happy to say that this legislation completely eliminates the cuts that were made to the military retiree cost of living adjustments. as we all know, the recently
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passed -- bill passed today, the bipartisan budget act of 2013, believe that bill would le cost cost of living adjustments for military retirees by reducing it by 1% until age 62. the american people have spoken very cloudily and very clearly, they have told the congress to restore those cuts to military retirees and we have listened. i applaud the house and the senate for restoring these cuts for disabled military retirees and survivors in the appropriations act that we passed today. so today we took care of part of the problem. but we have got to do more and what the comprehensive veterans bill that i have introduced today does is restore the full cola to all military retirees, every single retiree.
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this bill restores these colas and does much, much more. and i would like to take a moment, mr. president, to highlight some of the key provisions of this comprehensive piece of legislation. and let me tell you, mr. president, this legislation is based on listening very carefully to what the veterans' organizations have told us in private meetings, in hearings, and at some of the very, very large hearings that we have held with the american legion, the v.f.w., the d.a.v. and many other service organizations. let me very briefly touch on some of the provisions that we are addressing, some of the concerns that we are addressing in this comprehensive veterans legislation. which, i should add, is fully paid for. it is fully paid for. in the first omnibus bill that
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we passed, s. 944, the veterans health and benefits improvement act of 2013, we belt death with in-state division tuition assistance for post-9/11 veterans, an issue of great concern to young veterans and to all of the veterans' organizations. this package includes provisions the committee's ranking member, senator burr and i worked together on that would help service members transition back into civilian life by making recently separated veterans eligible for tuition at the in-state rate, at the in-state rate. given the nature of our armed forces, service members have little to no stay where they reside during military service. therefore many of these service members have not had sufficient time to establish residency by the time they go back to school. this legislation would help the transition of our brave men and women who have sacrificed so
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much in defense of our country by giving them a fair shot at attaining educational goals without incurring an additional financial burden. we address that issue in this legislation. mr. president, clearly one of the issues that has been an bairmt to -- embarrassment to all of us is the degree of sexual assault that we have seen in the military. wand this legislation does -- and what this legislation does is address that issue as well. while the pentagon, congress and other stakeholders continue to work to end sexual assault within the military, something we have got to focus on, we must nonetheless do everything we can to ensure that the v.a. is a welcoming place for those who have survived sexual assault. that is why this legislation includes important provisions that would improve the delivery of care and benefits to individuals who experience sexual trauma while serving in
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the military. these provisions were inspired by ruth moore, a veteran who struggled for 23 years to receive v.a. disability compensation. it would expand access to v.a. counseling and care to active duty service members and members of the guard and reserve who experience sexual assault during enactive duty training. it also takes a number of steps to improve the adjudication of disability compensation claims based on military sexual trauma. this legislation would give v.a. additional tools to provide victims of sexual trauma with the care and benefits they need to confront the emotional and physical consequences of these horrific acts. sexual assault in the military is unacceptable, and this committee is in a significant way addressing that issue. mr. president, one of the concerns that we have heard from many veterans and veterans organizations is the issue of
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overmedication, that many of our veterans come back and receive in some cases five, 10 different types of pills to address some of the very serious problems that they have. what this bill does is expand among many other things access to complementary and alternative medicine. the v.a. already does a good job in that area. this would expand their capability to provide complementary and alternative medicine. maintaining v.a.'s world-class health care system remains a priority for our committee. i am pleased that we were able to respond to calls from veterans to increase access to complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of chronic pain, mental health conditions and chronic disease. by expanding access to these treatment options, options such as acupuncture, meditation,
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massage they were, and many -- massage therapy and many others, we can enhance the likelihood veterans get the care they need in the way that works for them. and these treatments are becoming more and more popular, more and more veterans want access to them and that is what we do in this legislation. additionally this legislation calls for v.a. to promote healthy weight in veterans by increasing their access to fitness facilities as a healthy wait weight is critical to combating multiple chronic diseases including diabetes and health disease. in other words, the most cost-effective and best way to treat disease is to prevent that disease by making sure that our veterans have the opportunity to keep healthy, and this legislation does that as well. mr. president, this legislation further honors as veterans certain persons who perform service in the reserve
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components of the armed armed f. i know how important this is to all who wore this nation's uniforms, i'm pleased we would finally honor their service with passage of this legislation. this legislation also expands benefits for surviving spouses. for the spouses of those who gave their lives to defend this country. i want to make special note of provisions that will be included in this package that would also strengthen the benefits and services provided to surviving family members by addressing a number of concerns brought to the attention of this committee by the gold star wives in testimony last year. and obviously the gold star wives are the spouses of those soldiers who died in combat. specifically, this bill would provide additional dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses with children
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in order to provide financial support in the difficult period following the loss of a loved one. this bill would also expand the marine gunnery s.j. john david frye scholarship to include members of the armed forces who die in the line of duty. that means surviving spouses would become eligible for post-9/11 g.i. bill benefits setting them and their families up for success in the years to follow. mr. president, one of the issues that has sound a great deal of time and energy on the committee deals with claim processing. we all know that for the last number of years the v.a. has had a very significant backlog, and that is clearly not acceptable. when a veteran brings forth a claim, that claim should be processed in a reasonable period of time with a reasonable degree of accuracy. we are all well -- too well
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familiar with the challenges of the claims backlog. i am very pleased to see that the v.a. is making significant progress on this complex issue. they are going from paper to digital, there's a huge process, and as a result, the backlog is declining. that is good news, but we have got to do more. this legislation would support v.a.'s ongoing efforts and would make needed improvements to the claims system. among a number of claims-related provisions, this bill for the first time would require the department to publicly report on both claims processing goals and actual production. this would allow congress and the public to closely track and measure v.a.'s progress on this difficult issue. the secretary of the v.a., eric shinseki has proposed a very ambitious goal for the end of
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2015 and we want to make sure that they are on track. that is some of the provisions included in the first omnibus bill. let me talk a little bit about the second omnibus bill, all of which, both of those bills passed unanimously out of committee. the comprehensive veterans health and benefits and military retirement pay restoration act of 2014 includes provisions from s. 1581, a second omnibus bill that moved out of the committee with unanimous support at the november markup you markup. here are some of the provisions in that omnibus. the improvement and expansion of dental care. mr. president, i don't know about new mexico, but i can tell you that in vermont and, in fact, in many parts of this country, inability to access affordable dental care is a major, major crisis. it is true for the general public, and it is true for veterans as well. the truth of the matter is right
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now the v.a. with the exception of service-connected oral problems does not provide dental care to our veterans. and i think that that is a very significant omission. what this legislation does is, starting off with a large-scale pilot project, begin the effort to make sure that dental care becomes part of v.a. health care. this is something that i think the veterans throughout this country will be very, very excited to learn about and to participate in. mr. president, those are some -- some of the provisions that were in the two omnibus bills. now let me talk -- and they passed unanimously. let me talk about some other legislation that came out of the committee, in some cases with bipartisan basis --, bipartisan support but not unanimously.
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the first deals with advanced appropriations for the v.a. and that is s. 93 , the putting veterans' funding first act of 2013. that was introduced as i recall by senators begich and boozman in a bipartisan way. and here's the story here which is very important. as we saw last year in the event of a prolonged government shutdown, the veterans administration would not have been able to issue disability compensation or pension payments or provide educational benefits to millions of deserving veterans. the truth of the matter was that during that shutdown, we were perhaps a week or ten days away from disabled veterans and others not getting the benefits that for many of them is exactly what they depend upon. it's what they depend upon to buy
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groceries. it's what they depend upon to pay their mortgage, to pay their car payments. we were a week or 10 days away from those veterans not getting those benefits. i'm happy to say that in this legislation, we have addressed that issue and we have moved forward with advanced appropriations for mandatory accounts at the v.a. mr. president, our economy is making slow progress. we are creating jobs but nobody believes that we are anywhere near where we want to be. real unemployment in this country is close to 13%, and in my view we owe a great deal to veterans who have left their families, left their jobs, gone abroad and then they come back and they're unable to find employment. and what our legislation does is put into this comprehensive bill
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the renew our vow to hire heroes, s. 6, the putting our veterans back to work act of 2013. and this legislation would reauthorize provisions from the v.o.w. act to the hire heroes act of 2013, including a two-year extension for the veterans retraining assistance program which retrains unemployed veterans for high-demand occupations. and there are other employment provisions in this legislation as well. mr. president, several years ago under the leadership of our colleague, patty murray, who was my predecessor, as chair of the veterans' committee, we proudly passed the caregivers act. and the caregivers act was a very important piece of legislation which said to families who were taking care of
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disabled veterans, we understand that what you're doing is very, very difficult and we're going to give you some assistance. mr. president, after listening to the concerns, that legislation that we have passed dealt with post-9/11 veterans and their families. but after listening to the concerns of pre-il-9/11 veterans and their families, i introduced s. 851, to extend eligibility to the caregivers program to veterans' families of all eras, all eras. so we took this program which is working well and we said, we are going to pay attention to the needs of all families who are taking care of men and women who put their lives on the line to defend us and have become disabled. and that is in this legislation as well.
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mr. president, also in this legislation is language which will extend eligibility to enroll in v.a. health care and that was s. 1604. we all know that early diagnosis of health care conditions is critically important. under current law, recently separated veterans have five years of free health care from v.a. five years. this legislation would extend the period of time these individuals, including members of the active component national guard and reserves. they will be eligible to enroll in v.a. health care system to 10 years post-deployment. so we go from five years to 10 years. this benefit has been incredibly helpful to our most recent generation of service members and extending the enrollment period would allow more individuals to take advantage of v.a.'s high-quality, cost-effective health care system, including important
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access to mental health care services. additionally, this legislation simplifies the process for determining eligibility for enrollment in v.a. health care for lower-income veterans. currently, v.a. uses an extremely complex calculation of geographic income thresholds that vary from county to county. you can have one veteran in one county in vermont, another person living a mile away, one is eligible for v.a. health care because of his or her income, another person with the same income is not eligible. my legislation establishes one income threshold per state, simplifies the process and will enable more veterans to be eligible for v.a. health care. mr. president, this legislatio legislation -- and i'm wrapping up now -- this legislation also includes s. 131, the womens, veterans and other health care improvements act of 2013. with the widespread use of
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improvised explosive devices throughout iraq and afghanistan, both female and male service members have found themselves at increased risk for spinal cord, reproductive, urinary tract injury. many of these veterans dream one day of starting a family but their injuries prevent them from conceiving. this legislation would help them fulfill their dreams. now, mr. president, as i mentioned earlier, we have three more important provisions i want to briefly touch upon and that is once again the restoration of full cola for all military retirees. in an effort to address concerns regarding the cost-of-living adjustments for all military retirees, this bill would reaffirm the commitment congress has made to our service members and veterans by ensuring consistent and appropriate funding for military retirees and veterans. this very, very important provision is in this legislation. furthermore, there has been a
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concern that many cbocs, community-based outreach clinic, that have bee bendana authorizee built, are funded as well. let me conclude by saying this. we give a lot of speeches about the respect that we have for the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend this country. and they have come forward to the veterans' committee and they have said, we have concerns. we have concerns about health care. we have concerns about how quickly the benefits that we apply for come to us. they have been very loud and clear in saying -- and we agree with them -- that it is unacceptable that pensions promised to veterans have been cut. and there have been many, many other issues dealing with employment, dealing with education.
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what this bill does in a comprehensive way is to say to the veterans of this country, the millions and millions of people who have given so much to us, is that we hear your concerns. we hear your concerns and we are going to address your concerns. i want to take this moment to thank the majority leader, who is here, senator reid, who has been very, very not only supportive of veterans in general but supportive of this effort to make sure that we keep our promises to the veterans of this country. so the bill has been introduced. my hope is that we can get it to the floor as soon as possible. and i hope very much, mr. president, that in a partisan climate, that on this issue of keeping our promises to the men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend this country, that we can come together as a senate and come together as a house and have the president sign this bill, which will mean so much to
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so many. and with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut is recognized. mr. blumenthal: mr. president, i want to start by thanking chairman sanders of the veterans' affairs committee, where i serve, for his extraordinary vision and leadership and join him in thanking the majority leader for his commitment to this kind of comprehensive and aggressive approach to revise and reinvigorate, to reinvent and reform veterans' programs in a comprehensive and overarching approach. i will be speaking although at r length in the days and weeks to come, but i want to join him in committing all of us i hope on a bipartisan basis to this effort
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to fix the flaws and fulfill the vision that this nation owes to men and women who have served and sacrificed year after year. this program recognizes the fundamental truth -- we are dealing with different populations of different ages and within those populations, people with different needs and challenges. and a comprehensive program is necessary to address the obligation. it's an obligation that we owe them to make sure that we leave no veteran behind and keep faith with every man and woman who has served and sacrificed for this nation. it fixes the flaws of the last budget agreement that reduced the cost-of-living adjustment on retiree pension. it commits the nation to
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economic opportunity and real jobs, training for the jobs that exist now and the jobs of the future. it reforms loan and aid programs for college education and also for noncollege education. and it addresses the gaps in health care not just promising but performing. and, of course, it will also necessarily help veterans who may be preyed upon by schemes and scams, legal or illegal. and that is a very desperate and challenging need for this nation to address. and hopefully it will do so on a bipartisan basis. there should be no reason and there's no justification for opposing an effort that is paid for. and i stress paid for.
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so that my hope is we will have bipartisan support for this visionary and courageous measure that says to america's veterans, we will keep faith with you. we will leave no veteran behind. one of the first promises i made three years ago in the first speech that i did from the floor of this chamber was that i would work and fight aggressively for the veterans of this nation and i intend to work for this program, work to improve it and continue to listen to the veterans of foreign wars, the vietnam veterans of america, the american legion -- all of the groups that represent our veterans so ably and speak for them. the voices and faces of connecticut veterans have been with me always, and i see them always when i return. so i will work tirelessly for this program.
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again, my thanks to all of the members of the veterans' affairs committee who will be supporting this program and to our chairm chairman, senator sanders, for his great leadership. and i thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i spend long periods of time on the floor compared to most senators. that's my job. and in doing so, i get to know people more than probably a lot of people. and i -- over the many years, i've come to -- we talk about a senate family and it really is a senate family. and for me, it really is my family. i know that i'm being way too protective and probably a lot of people say it's none of my business, but that's how i feel. and when people leave, i really feel bad because you get to know people and you feel comfortable with the people you know. and the reason i mention this today is that one of the people that i've learned to really admire and appreciate and joke with and have a good time is one
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of the republican staff members that's leaving. patrick kilker -- and i have no idea if i've pronounced his name right. kilcer. i don't know the name very well but i've known him for a long time. we call him patrick. and he's a republican floor assistant. and if i have an issue and there's not a democratic floor person around, i go to him and he always gives me the answer that is honest and truthful. so that's how we are so well served by these people who fill these spots in this wonderful historic chamber. he came to the senate from pennsylvania. he's from pennsylvania. worked for a famous pennsylvania senator, arlen specter. he spent awhile working with him and then moved his way over here, started in the cloakroom, game floor assistant, as he is
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now. he's going to leave to go to work with one of my dear personal friends, chris dodd. i asked patrick to come and spend a few minutes with me this week before he left and we had a nice visit. i talked about my relationship with chris dodd and what a good experience it will be working for one of the great orators we've had in this -- during the time i've been here in the senate and one of the nicest people you could get to know, chris dodd. he will be missed here, i will miss him, but i wish him the very best. he's -- i always have to be very careful how you -- i don't want to bring any bad luck, but he's engaged now. he's going to have a job he can afford it. so i really wish him well. i will miss him, but i do say
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this -- at least he has a first name. the person he works with, they don't even call him by his first name, duncan. so anyway, enough of that. i really, really will miss you. you have had such a positive effect. you are always happy, in spite of the pressure that's on you, happy to go down how should i vote, how much longer, trying to get people here who are late, wonder how much longer is it going to be. we go to you guys. thank you so much. you have been great. i look forward to visiting with you and hopefully you and dodd will invite me to watch one of those movies sometime because chris dodd works -- is the leader of the motion picture association of america. mr. president, another just short thing i want to say. over the years, i have come to admire so very, very much our pages. they sacrifice to come here.
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it's not easy for them to come here to go to school for a semester, but they do. and this school that they go to is no soft school. it's hard. it's hard. they -- they start school at 6:00 in the morning, i think it's 6:00, they go for a couple of hours. i know they are supposed to get up around 5:00. i -- they -- it is such a good environment. we have gone out of our way to have a pleasant place for them to live, the so-called dorm. they have monitors who watch them so very, very closely. their parents don't have to worry about them. and it's a good experience. they see what's happened -- they see what happens on a daily basis in the bowels of government in the united states senate. they will go different ways. they are all juniors in high school. they will go back and complete their high school and go on to college, but their entire life, they will never forget their
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experience here. i went just for a few days when i was a junior in high school to to -- maybe i was a senior. it was right after my junior year to boys state, and i made friends during that week that we spent, five days that we spent there that are my friends even today those many years ago, and that's the relationship these pages have scheduled. and -- have developed. and so i say to them thank you very, very much for the work you do. i was working up, as i do, out this back door the last night or two, and i see one of the pages -- they have the door open and i see all this list of stuff on the wall. so i say what is that? well, mr. president, what they have to know, among other things things -- each of us can be pretty -- what's the right word? demanding, i don't know if that's the right word, but we
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all -- senator mcconnell and i -- these podiums are here all the time, but we're the only two, so when a senator comes to speak, they need a podium. but they have to get the right podium, and the pages have to know when a senator wants to speak what podium they get. is it going to be a little one, middle sized, half middle sized or big one. anyway, they have to know that. they have a big chart up there to make sure they don't make mistakes. they make sure we have water. i don't like warm water, i like cold water, i don't like ice. i learned from the page the other day we all have our demands for water, sparkling, half sparkling, half regular, half tap. so, mr. president, i am so grateful that they took the time to leave their homes to come here to go to school. to be students at the united
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states senate. mr. president, finally, we're going to have a vote when we come back on flood insurance. menendez, landrieu, isakson worked on this long and hard. landrieu has been -- what's the right word -- persistent, and that's an understatement. she has been on this like she can get on something and never get off of it. we have come over the last several months within just inches we thought of being able to have an agreement and move it to the floor, but she and isakson worked hard, did this consent request to bring it to the floor and they are always just a little bit short. so i am filing cloture in just a few minutes on the motion to proceed to this matter, and that will be the vote we have when we get back. if they are able to work out an
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agreement and we can always modify that vote and move to -- move forward. as i understand it, there is five to ten amendments they want to have that are relevant for that bill. we have all agreed that's okay. so we hope we can do that when we come back. i thank those senators for the good work. mr. president, could i ask what the pending business is? the presiding officer: the motion to proceed to s. 1926. mr. reid: i have a cloture motion at the desk relative to that measure. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion. the clerk: cloture motion. we the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate hereby move to bring to a close debate on the motion to proceed to calendar number 294, s. 1926, a bill to delay the implementation of certain provisions of the biggert-waters flood insurance reform act of 2012, and for other purposes, signed by 17 senators as follows -- mr. reid: mr. president, i would ask consent that the reading of
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the names be waived. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: i ask consent that the mandatory quorum required under rule 22 also be waived and the vote on the motion to invoke cloture occur at 5:30 p.m. on january 27. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: i now ask, mr. president, unanimous consent that we proceed to a period of morning business with senators allowed to speak for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent we proceed to s. res. 335. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate resolution 335, designating january, 2014, as national mentoring month. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection, the senate will proceed. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table, there being no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: i ask consent we now proceed to s. res. 336. the presiding officer: the clerk will report.
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the clerk: senate resolution 336, designating the first week of april, 2014, as national asbestos awareness week. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? without objection, the senate will proceed. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table, there be no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: i'm sold that s. 19 -- told that s. 1950 is due for its first reading. the presiding officer: the clerk will read the title of the bill for the first time. the clerk: s. 1950, a bill to improve the provision of medical services and benefits to veterans, and for other purposes. mr. reid: i ask for a second reading but object to my own request. the presiding officer: objection is heard. the bill will be read for a second time on the next legislative day. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent notwithstanding the upcoming recess or adjournment
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of the senate, the president of the senate, the president pro tempore and the majority minority leaders be authorized to make appointments to commissions, committees, boards, conferences, parliament conference authorized by law by concurrent action of the two houses or by order of the senate. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent that during the adjournment, from thursday, january 17 through monday, january 27, that senator levin be authorized to sign bills and resolutions. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent when the senate completes its business today, it add adjourn and convene for pro forma sessions at the following dates and times -- friday, january 117, 11:15 a.m., january 21, 10:30 a.m., friday, january 24, 9:30 a.m. that the senate adjourn on friday, january 24, until 2:00 p.m. on monday, january 27. on monday, following the prayer and pledge, the morning business be deemed expired, the journal
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of proceedings be approved to date, following any leader remarks, the senate resume consideration of the motion to proceed to s. 1926, the flood insurance legislation. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: the next roll call vote, mr. president, will be monday, january 27, at 5:30 p.m. if there is no further business to come before the senate, i ask that it adjourn under the previous order. the presiding officer: the the presiding officer: the
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>> next secretary of state john kerry urges the syrian opposition to attend a conferencconferenc e next week in switzerland aimed at ending civil unrest. secretary kerry said the syrian opposition has the power to veto names for the transitional governing body as this president bashar al-assad's government. >> good morning everybody. good afternoon. let me just say that i know you would like to ask some questions and unfortunately i have to go straight from here to the white house for a meeting but i will
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have an availability tomorrow in the morning when we have our friends from mexico here and i will take a couple of extra questions to make up for not being able to answer some here now. i know that many of you have been asking about some of the recent revisionism as to why the international community will be gathering next week. so let me make it clear here today. from the very moment that we announced the goal of holding a geneva conference on syria, we all agree that the purpose was specifically and solely to implement the 2012 geneva one communiqué. that purpose, that soul purpose could not have been more clear at the time this was announced and it could not be more clear today. it has been reiterated in international statement after international statement that the
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parties have signed up to and venue after venue and resolution after resolution including most recently in paris last weekend when both the london and 11 at the russian federation reaffirmed their commitment to that objective, the implementation of geneva one. so for anyone seeking to rewrite this history or to muddy the waters, let me state one more time what geneva ii is about. it is about establishing a process essential to the formation of a transition government body, governing body with full executive hours established by mutual consent. that process is the only way to bring about an end to the civil war that has triggered one of the planets most severe humanitarian disasters and which
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has created the seating grounds for extremism. ..

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